“Today, we’re making the entire Champagne and sparkling wine experience more approachable. We’re creating our own table and a judgment-free zone.”
Erica Davis and Catherine Carter are two best friends bringing diversity to the boardroom and the tasting room. They are the dynamic co-founders of The Sip, a subscription service that sends curated boxes of high-end, serving size bottles of sparkling wine and Champagne to your door. The Sip’s curated bubbly boxes are designed to help wine lovers better understand their palate, discover what they like, and save money on bottles that just aren’t right for them.
Both Erica and Catherine grew up in Oakland, not far from the picturesque vineyards and ripening grapes of California’s wine country. Their introduction is the definition of destiny: despite being from the same area the two didn’t meet until college, when they joined Alpha Kappa Alpha from different schools.
“Catherine met a fellow soror from my school, University of San Francisco — she was coming home for the summer from UC Santa Barbara and was given my information to connect,” says Erica. “She called and we went to a party together and the rest is just history.”
After graduating, Catherine worked in hospitality and property management, while Erica spent time in merchandising and digital content development at Gap, Inc. and Darby Smart. Over the years — through marriage, kids, moves, and more — they stayed close, and scheduled monthly girls’ nights to keep their circle tight. It was because of these hangouts that Erica and Catherine were inspired to demystify and diversify the sparkling wine experience.
“It became hard to find a different brand we had not already tried, and even harder to figure out where to purchase the bottle once we discovered a new Champagne house. We tried to find a ‘go to’ for Champagne discovery and it didn’t exist, so we decided to create our own.”
The duo launched The Sip in January 2020 — while starting a company during a global shutdown comes with its own set of challenges, Catherine and Erica used it as an opportunity to hone in on what their customers wanted and were ultimately able to pandemic-proof their business.
“We launched with the thought process that we would be a subscription service, and we had to pivot to virtual. Everyone was drinking at home and trying to enjoy little moments; people weren't going to the grocery stores to pick up bottles, so that’s how our curated boxes got started.”
Erica and Catherine created an inclusive community where sparkling wine enthusiasts can explore and savor life’s special moments, big and small. The Sip's members receive 2-3 carefully selected bottles, complete with tasting guides and a custom gift, turning every bi-monthly delivery into a bubbly discovery mission.
“As women, and especially as Black women, we are told what to like; it might be sweet, it might be pink, but it’s never personal. . . it’s not just about matching people with bottles — it’s about undoing decades of stereotypical marketing to help people find their flavor and taste the world’s best wines in a judgment-free zone.”
What’s more, these BFFs are helping to fill a huge gap in the market; less than 1% of wine brands are Black-owned, and there is a dire need for diversity in the space. Along with making the sparkling wine world more inclusive, Catherine and Erica also make sure to give back through their “Take a Sip, Give a Sip” initiative. For every Sip purchase, the company gives access to clean water for women and children in need through the East Oakland Community Project, an organization that offers emergency and transitional housing.
Erica and Catherine's journey from wine enthusiasts to trailblazing entrepreneurs is a testament to their dedication, business acumen, and the magic that happens when two kindred spirits join forces. Below, they share their go-to tips for drinking bubbles, the daily rituals they swear by, and what they’ve learned from the hardworking women in their lives.
How did you meet, and when did you realize you were meant to be besties?
Erica: We met in college. We are both members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., but joined at different schools. Catherine met a fellow soror from my school, University of San Francisco — she was coming home for the summer from UC Santa Barbara and was given my information to connect. Now, if you knew us back then, we were “no-new friend” type of girls. But she called and we went to a party together and the rest is just history. Sometimes when you meet people you just know they are your people, and that was our vibe from the beginning.
When you were young girls, what were the narratives you were exposed to about women and women's rights?
Erica: As a daughter of a strong, brilliant Black woman, I had the exposure to seeing first hand what women were capable of. I come from two generations of entrepreneurship — my mother and grandmother — so the power of the woman and our possibilities were expressed early on.
Catherine: Growing up, the women around me — my mom, my aunts — all worked outside of the home. They either put themselves through college, or started businesses of their own. Having higher education and financial independence was always stressed to me. As I grew up and began navigating the world as a young woman, I learned more and more why these two values were seen as such priorities. They have all shared stories of discrimination, both covert and outright, and they needed to have the tools to build their own tables when they were not allowed a seat at others.
Tell us about a woman who inspires you.
Erica: My mom is by far my biggest inspiration. She is a wife, mother, sister, and business owner. She does it with such grace and good intention to share her talents with the world. She somehow was able to balance it all. She isn’t perfect, but she is always unapologetic about it and I think that in itself is a life lesson for women. We are always taught to be polite and apologize for being ourselves, and I was blessed to have someone teach me the opposite. Being you and true to you is important.
Catherine: My mom has always been my inspiration. The more I live, the more I’m able to appreciate the life she’s lived and all the things she accomplished both personally and professionally. The things she wants, she goes after, and she does it with positivity and passion. She’s raised a family, traveled the world, and is not done yet!
How did your collective vision for The Sip come to be?
The Sip was inspired by our monthly girls’ nights. What started as a nice way to relax and unwind together soon proved to be a challenge. After trying the popular brands, like Moët and Veuve Clicquot, we wanted to discover more, which wasn’t as easy as we expected. It became hard to find a different brand we had not already tried, and even harder to figure out where to purchase the bottle once we discovered a new Champagne house.
We tried to find a “go to” for Champagne discovery and it didn’t exist, so we decided to create our own. We are reshaping women’s first experience with new brands they haven’t tried before in a more approachable and beautiful format. We curate boxes that are designed to help you discover what you like and why, helping you ultimately understand your palate and save money on bottles that just aren’t right for you.
You launched The Sip during the pandemic — not an easy task. How did you stay motivated in the face of obstacles?
We often joke that when we started we knew we needed a recession-proof business, but we didn't realize it had to be pandemic-proof as well.
We launched with the thought process that we would be a subscription service, and we had to pivot to virtual. Our customers also wanted more. Everyone was drinking at home and trying to enjoy little moments; people weren't going to the grocery stores to pick up bottles, so that’s how our curated boxes got started. The pandemic helped us pivot and hone in on the products we needed to deliver to our customers.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about Black women and wine?
As women, and especially as Black women, we are told what to like; it might be sweet, it might be pink, but it’s never personal. That never matched who we were, so we set out to create a discovery platform to empower people to drink what they like, not what they’re told.
It’s not just about matching people with bottles — it’s about undoing decades of stereotypical marketing to help people find their flavor and taste the world’s best wines in a judgment-free zone. We are creating a new table that helps people find their flavor and discover new brands.
What's a ritual in your life that you swear by?
Erica: I wake up every morning and write my to-do list. Not just for work, but also personal. I need to check off boxes; it helps me feel like I accomplished something that day. It seems small but this literally is my biggest motivator.
Catherine: Quiet alone time, whether it’s first thing in the morning before the rest of my house wakes up or late at night when the house is asleep. I really benefit from sitting quietly with a cup of coffee or a glass of bubbles, to just enjoy the peace of no noise and no people. Then I’m back at it!
What are your go-to tips for drinking bubbles?
Erica: Do what feels natural to you, break the rules. . . who cares. I love the quote, “Those that matter don’t mind, and those that mind don’t matter.” That is the mindset I take when enjoying anything. Do you!
Catherine: Try different variations of something you think you don’t like. Think you don’t like Rosé — have you only been trying sweeter demi-secs? Try a Brut! Think you only like Champagne — have you tried Cremant? There could be a whole new world of new bubbles to enjoy.
What's your favorite way to celebrate a win (big or small)?
Erica: A tall glass of Laurent Perrier Cuvée Rosé in a red wine cup, paired with truffle popcorn or truffle fries.
Catherine: A glass of bubbles from a great bottle I have not had in a while, some sushi, and a new episode of the Housewives!